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The Sports Guy: I’m spoiled, and now I know it

One of the drawbacks of living in any community for an extended period of time is that you begin to lose sight of some of the things that make your town special or unique. You take for granted the things that you see on a daily basis that others, located in other parts of this big nation, do not.

For example, I always try to make at least one trip back to my parents in Nebraska each year. This way, I remember just how thankful I am to wake up every morning in Powell with views of four different mountain ranges outside my windows. One of my biggest fears is that I’ll someday take for granted the scenery that we’re blessed with in these parts.

While I can guard against that, there are other things that get taken for granted that we’re maybe not aware of until we get confronted with proof of that fact.

This past week, I encountered one of those situations. With states throughout the Midwest approaching the start of high school football season, many of my friends, acquaintances and former high school classmates have kids preparing to begin play for their teams.

One of them, a friend I’d made at my first sports job in Kansas some 17 years ago, commented that he was hoping the rain would stay away so his kids didn’t have to scrimmage in the mud last Saturday morning. And that’s when it hit me.

Aside from the complete disbelief that anyone at a time of national drought would be asking for rain to go away for any reason, I realized there was something more.

Mud. I will never again have to worry about mud at a home Powell High School football game.

Now, admittedly, rain is something I’ve never had to worry too much about in my career. Until a shower two years ago in Worland during the Panthers-Warriors gridiron tilt, I had proudly managed to work the entirety of my writing career without being rained upon while standing on a high school sideline.

Snowed on, yes. Rained on, no.

But there was always that need to consider how the weather had been the past few days. Would it be safe to wear light-colored clothing? Should I choose attire specifically picked to be sacrificed to several layers of dirt by night’s end due to sloppy sideline conditions?

Suddenly, though, here I was face to face with a reality. Mud — that field condition you often dreamed of and prayed for as a kid coming up through junior football ranks and that your mother dreaded with every fiber of her existence — is never again going to be something I have to worry about at a home football game. As long as I can get from my car to the field without falling in a puddle, I should be home free.

That quickly triggered a cascade of thoughts. My long-standing preseason ritual of walking to the endzone, plucking a few blades of grass and saying a prayer for a safe season  and several trips to paydirt — gone. I’m sure I’ll still say the prayer, but I imagine the powers that be at PHS will frown pretty heavily upon any attempts to try plucking a few blades of synthetic turf from the ground. And even if I were to succeed in that endeavor, it wouldn’t have that same aroma as freshly mown grass at the start of a new football season.

That’s not the only change ahead this season. Joking with the grounds crew about the non-straightness of lines painted on the football field? Gone. The sideline pastime of reporters, photographers and referees everywhere will have to be supplanted by banter on a wholly different topic.

The change to a new stadium is obvious. The subtle changes produced by the move were something I’d completely overlooked.

So for PHS fans preparing to hit the road this week to follow the Panthers’ various sports teams, I bid you safe travels. Here’s to a good year for all our programs. And who knows, maybe we can find a little mud up in Miles City to roll around in.

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